Saturday, November 9, 2013

White Gold

Taylor White (Taylurk) was with Kaff-eine at The Bell Jar, in Collingwood, the day I met her. She had agreed to an interview and I was running late. I got there and recognised her instantly as the person responsible for the panels at JuddyRoller. It’s a strange thing to say, but she looks like her work.  And she has a presence that slaps you in the face. I offered that she looks Leo Di Caprio. She laughed and in a broad Southern accent that would make any Aussie swoon she replied “I’ve been told James Dean or Lisa Marie”. She does indeed look like the love child of Lisa Marie Presley and James Dean, with the unaffected cool of Leo.     

I was psyched to have the opportunity to meet the artist responsible for the panels that launched a thousand 'likes'. The boys they depict look like little Aussies, playing in the street in the 50's. Later we hit Instagram and I locate my first photo of the panels, taken 114 weeks ago. Taylor shows me an image of a young boy from the coal mines that had inspired them, adding "it was my first ever piece of that scale". I called her a “talented bastard” and she smiled knowingly.

Success comes to Taylor as it should.  Taylor the illustrator was a Dean’s List award winning student at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).  At 22 she headed for Oslo, Norway.  She was introduced to the lead art director at advertising agency TRY Reklamebrya, THE agency in Norway. He offered her a freelance story board project and “when the client was wildly impressed” she was taken on.  In 2008 she became the first in-house illustrator to be hired by any agency in Norway.  

Taylor the painter emerged in Norway, when Australia's Elwin Bradshaw encouraged her to paint. Taylor had a growing sense this was what she really wanted to be doing and so she did. One time Neighbours actor, Bradshaw had relocated to Norway and among many of his endeavors ran Pastillen Gallery in Oslo. It was there that Taylor had her first solo exhibition 'Shortly Before the End', an apt title as it coincided with a feeling that it was time to move on.

The show was Taylor's first experiment with large scale works on panel. She built the panels herself, with Elwin's help, creating 20 pieces in 3 months. She describes the pieces as an eclectic and highly experimental body of work that process as her artistic awakening. Ironically, 'Shortly Before the End' marked the beginning of her exploration as a traditional painter. 

Taylor enjoyed Norway but it “always felt like wearing someone else's shoes; comfortable enough but never quite the right fit”. When the opportunity arose to travel to Melbourne, Australia, she jumped at it.
Disquiet - Image courtesy of the artist.

The street artist Taylurk was born in Melbourne when Shaun Hossack of Juddy Roller encouraged her to put her work on the street.  With street art, she loved that she had more freedom, that the work “didn’t have to be perfect” and that she was not constricted by the expectations of others. And so came more exhibitions, group and solo. She offered that she prefers not to follow the traditional pathway of gallery representation, but rather to freely place her work on any surface that would allow for interesting creative exploration, and to gain visibility that way.

It would be convenient if I could leave you with the impression of Taylor emerging from the gallery to the street however Taylor explained "I would be as reluctant to confine my work to the streets as to the four corners of a canvas". She enjoys the exploration of urban surfaces and the possibility that "if I can master aerosol, I can paint any image, on any surface". 

Taylor intends to keep travelling but she remains passionately grounded in North Carolina. She speaks enthusiastically about her “deeply rooted heritage” and her father, grandfather and great grandfather's links to the coal industry. Unlike most people desperate to leave what she acknowledged was a “small town” suburban life, Taylor wants to stay. She raves about her hometown Raleigh, explaining that “in the past 5 years Raleigh has seen a cultural boom which makes it feel livable for the first time. There's so much potential for the city; the cultural scene is so young and ambitious, and it still retains a certain humility”. I googled and confirm that this is true.  

Taylor’s plans for Raleigh are bold. She says “I have a feeling there is a difference to be made to the creative culture there, and I may or may not be the one to make that difference”. Given the success she has had in the first 3 chapters of her career, I cannot see her being anything but the creative driver. For the past year she has been building her studio, in the corner of family land.  This is to become her landing pad. I ask if she will open a gallery space there and she says yes, maybe, one day. I joke will she run a circus on the hundreds of acres surrounding her and she says “actually, yeah, I have friends in the circus and …”. At first I think she is joking but no. 

Taylor is currently visiting Melbourne incidentally after travelling to Adelaide after unanimously winning the Stupid Krap Red Book Art Prize with her piece “Drifter”. On their website she is quoted as describing her images as the depiction of androgynous human children, conveying “an openness and a malleability that exists in us prior to adulthood”.*
Drifter - image courtesy of the artist.
 This might offer an insight into why Taylor’s work looks like her. More examples can be found on her websiteTumblrInstagramFacebookbehanceJust Another AgencyThe Loop, New Hunting Ground , Flanders Gallery in Raleigh etc etc. Seriously just google her She is an artist who is androgynous and malleable. She feels deeply connected with her heritage and the hometown of her youth. She is open to change and willing to be taken in any direction. This makes her available to the type of serendipity that leads to greatness. If this is Taylor White at 28, I cannot wait to see her future.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

In An Unguarded Moment

If you follow street art in Melbourne on Fb, or follow street photography generally, you know where this post is coming from:#besttopicever #overonehundredcommentsonastatusupdate #23positionsinaonenightstand #comeonwhodoesntthinkofPrinceandquotehimintheirhead.
So there was a Fb status update that summonsed street photographers and their subjects to discuss the issue of the unguarded image of a stranger taken without their consent (and our subsequent posting in social media forums). The ensuing debate became about responsibility in a new age (i.e. where so many images are taken and distributed so widely). It also became about taking someone's photo without permission, what delineates lawful and not (actually that one may not have come up), what line there is and when is it blurry, whether you should ask permission, staged images versus capturing a moment and objectifying the subject. It touched on the ridicule of the subject and the dangerous territory of the child subject. 

Yes, there are some very insightful folk in Fb land. You might be posting about your smashed avocado and goats fetta, but we are dissecting serious issues here. 
I decided to hunt down some images I have snapped over the years. To be a bit careful treading on this topic I tried to disguise identities.  I noticed that whilst I selected some unguarded snaps of friends laughing, I could not post their images. It wasn't so much out of respect for them, but out of fear of retribution. So to add to this debate, there is something different about capturing the unguarded image of a stranger, and the unguarded image of a friend. Perhaps it is a feeling of entitlement to take the shot because of the distance between the photographer and the subject, or less attachment to the importance of privacy because the person is unknown. Maybe their is a loosening of connection to the unique human subject because the context of documenting life (crudely or respectfully) is different to the context of  capturing shared memories.
You need to know I have chosen the least confronting voyeuristic photographs I could find for this post and in doing so, I am skewing the topic in my favour, rather than towards the uglier side of the unguarded subject. And I acknowledge an uglier side of the unauthorised capture of the image of a stranger.
One person's comment rightly intimated I (and others) might be using 'Art' as an idealistic platform to romanticise an ugly behaviour. As human as I think that behaviour is, and as guilty as I am of behaving along side and within it, this is true for me. I think I do trade off the idea of 'Art' as a camouflage. 
The most important idea that came from this debate, for me, is the need to recognise the reality of the world now. Photographers are not a select few with a big heavy camera and access to a dark room. Photographers are every person with a phone.  The people capturing the unguarded moments are not photojournalists, but strangers from all walks of life. We have become a society that photographs every single thing we do and everything everyone else is doing. We can and do broadcast it all over the world seconds after the image is captured. It is exciting to think of what this means for the world, in terms of our understanding of ourselves and the collective conscience, or at least 'shared knowing'. It is frightening however to see how that creates a further chasm between those with access to technology and those without. And it is horrifying to think of what this means for the privacy of the individual. Now excuse me while I check in on foursquare, upload a photo of the trashed Melbourne Cup reveler who just staggered off the tram and tag you with me at Mario's.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Just the Good Bits

It is not in my nature to be apolitical and my reaction to the public perception of street art is no exception. Last week as I sat in the hub of the most left wing electorate in Melbourne, surrounded by the most tertiary educated people in Victoria, drinking a cliched cup of good coffee meters from Barristers Row and with an obligatory weekend paper in front of me I got all pent up.
I was reading an article in The Age about the "former penniless graffiti artists" who "can now command thousands", when I raised my incredulous eyebrow and said out loud "oh reeeaaally". Penniless like a single parent below the poverty line? Penniless like a recent graduate with a Bachelors degree? Penniless like someone in their first job and renting in an expensive neighborhood? Or penniless like someone in the Carlton flats ?
I recognise this post might cause offence to street artists so I want to make clear from the outset that it is not you or your work I challenge, but the romanticised notion that all graffiti writers have the desire and/or capacity to evolve into internationally acclaimed, articulate creators of art work with mass appeal. And the notion that graffiti writers wish to be perceived as street artists.  Many graffiti writers despise 'Art Fags', resent the space they have overtaken, and feel that they merely use the street as a fast track to exhibitions and fame. I know this because they email me and tell me.  And to be honest, I see their point.
Street artists do perform illegal acts that are technically vandalism on the street. Street artists have tags. But come on, lets tell the naive public the truth. Street artists are for the most part well educated and in the least savvy business people.
I can't stand the public perception that 'Street Art' is a homogeneous 'culture'.  It irks the shit out of me.  I guess the same way it would if middle class Americans starting rapping at the Opera House, being lauded for rising up from the Ghetto.  It is not 8 Miles going on here people. Melbourne has many characters and an amazing array of artistic brilliance, and Fitzroy, as you know is my area of interest. But I recognise it is Fitzroy, not Morwell. Gentri Fuct as was stencilled heavily a few years back
The second point I make (if the above rant can be deemed a solid point) is that the public is not liking pieces "once ridiculed as graffiti". It is liking the good bits that look nice on the wall, may increase in value and get a nod of approval from other "savvy investors". I can't imagine anyone is paying "thousands" for any of the pieces depicted in this post. But to be fair, I need to qualify these generalisations I am making.
The issues are muddy because there exists a dense substrate of cultures that grow on the canvas of the street and use the street for many and varied purposes. But they all use public and privately owned man-made bricks and mortar as a canvas, and unless commissioned, they all do so illegally. And sometimes they behave very similarly. But I believe that the popular culture of street art to which The Age was referring, has developed not directly from, but in parallel and with some connection to, other subcultures inhabiting the space.
It can be expected that anything that grows from such a substrate will be vulnerable to cross fertilisation, and that is a good thing, probably the best by-product is a thread of anarchism and anti-establishment sentiment, more evident in some than others.
There will be multiple faults in the generalisations I have made. Some street artists are from disadvantage. Some never set out to be recognised artists with a marketable brand. Some graffiti writers are middle class (the rumour was that Dicknose was from Camberwell or Hawthorn or something). And I further recognise that there those who are a bit of both, and will continue to be, even in their deserved success. Ironically I am sure some of the images I have selected for this post are the work of middle class graffiti writers.
Ultimately, however, I am under no illusion that all street artists are the product of the working class rising from the street, chroming as they graffed the laneways, between sessions at the skate park. And I define working class as those from under funded public schools, in low socio-economic suburbs, where 2% of secondary school graduates go to university and a student has to be a genius to get a TER over 90.
I am talking about real working class. Parents that lose their jobs when factories close, and kids that work after school not for pin money but to pay for second hand school uniforms. I am not talking about Camberwell, or even Northcotte (in the last 15 years). I am talking the slummy bits of Broady, Corio, Scoresby, Doreen, Footscray, and parts of Reservoir. Many of us suffer from the disorder of underestimating of our status so before you proudly wear your working class on your sleeve, be a bit clear about whether it accurately describes your struggle to get by from day to day in a society that disadvantages you in every way.

I want to say to the street artist audience please understand I am not taking away from the incredible avant-garde movement that is street art and not biting the hand that feeds me. I recall one artist saying to me, off the cuff, that the streets have moved on from graffiti and that taggers shit them. I disagree entirely. It is not the streets that have moved on from graffiti, it's the artists who have created a worldwide movement, who are now part of something beyond the street.  Graffers are still there and will remain, and so far as I can see they don't aspire to be anything else. But that's another blog post.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Five Female Street Artists To Watch

Great, I got your attention. I hope some of you are having a laugh.  And I hope, concreteplayground, you might consider some research for next time. Or at least source some photographs this side of 2010. The deer hunters are so 2011.  So much has transpired.  

I will tell you something that is contemporary and has just actually happened, Barek has been to town. And I am confident I am the last person to jump aboard that train. Preprint, Vetti, Dean Sunshine have all covered this already. 

I meant to meet him on the Sunday of his week long Melburn Spraycation but sleep got the better of me. I had promised him an opportunity to get up next to my favourite secret and ancient Ghost Patrol. It remains secret (and in case concrete playground were wondering, just as Miso is not really 'up and coming' neither is Ghost Patrol).  

So, what does a paint spotter do when they stuff up their opportunity to be there when it happens? They pick the next sunny day to meander the streets, on a paint spotter nerd hunt.  So much as happened since I went into semi-retirement, thank you Barek for enticing me back onto the streets.  There is this neat crew called AV...okay, I will stop having a dig. Here's some of what I saw. In 2013. Okay, that's the last dig I promise. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Hunt Coward

The sharpest piece of political Graff I ever saw was on a wall near the Vic market and it simply read "Hunt Coward".  It was 2005 and "the people" were agitating. It was the beginning of the end of Howard and for me, the end of my early adult years under Liberal reign.

And so we see ourselves here again and I sense you wondering how I am going to weave Street Art into this.  I don't think I can yet. I have seen so little commentary for so long I would be clutching straws to bring you a collection of political pieces.  Correct me if I am wrong.  There has been the Abbott on the wall of faces off Brunswick St but so far as I can tell, that's it.

We have seen complacency in Australia over the past decade and it has seeped into the Australian Graffiti and Street Art scenes.  I partially blame the general bleaching of political activism from the universities under Howard's reign. Voluntary Student Unionism saw the death of the student activist platform that had been an essential voice of dissent. And unionism everywhere was drained of power to leave us with a pile of individually disgruntled people with no collective power.  

It took years for the people to vote that fucker out.  When they did, they were gasping for breath.  Rudd swept in and apologised, finally, for our invasion. "Work choices" was rightly scrapped as a ridiculous blight on the landscape of workers rights.  Mistakes were made, these cannot be denied, but not enough to bring the Libs back in.

When Jules swept in Murdoch machine went into overdrive.  The "she did it" take on the "we can do it" posters appeared briefly but again aside from a few wheatpastes, the streetscape remained apolitical.  We were hopeful for a while.  And then at every turn she fell.  And there was nothing on the street to mark it.  White ants don't come close to describing the media manipulation, she was essentially wading through acid wearing legs of steel.  

So, people, we now have Abbott. FFS. A man described by Malcolm Fraser as dangerous.  A man who all sides of politics describe as conservative.  The man who was never meant to be the leader of the party, now the leader of the nation!!?? And why, because of 'economic mismanagement' or 'the boats' or whatever rhetoric you have heard and chosen to believe?  It's all bullshit. 

 I beg all writers and all street artists to call it as it is.  So whether you voted him in or not, when he reduces minimum wages, say it on the street.  When he diverts funding from hospitals, satirise it. When he reduces taxes on the rich, get angry. When he reduces "the debt" that had meant we had a healthcare system,try really hard not to get sick. 

Just remember, he once described himself as the love child of Bronwyn Bishop and John Howard.  And thanks to Murdoch, he now has a mandate to rob from the poor to give to the rich. Don't let what happens hereon in go unchallenged. Get your politics back on. Hunt Coward!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Ye sow what ye reap

Some people do a shit load of sowing, others seem to do nothing but reap. I haven't been sowing, reaping, Flashing or blogging of late and maybe I am a bit over the reapers. Maybe i am a bit lost for inspiration. I can't seem to see the forest for the trees. So as I gingerly step my recently healed foot forward, and before I get stuck back into it, some of my favourite sowers straight from the archives ... SF, Items and Hits

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Conga And The Whale

A child played in the second bedroom, perhaps writing in a diary or colouring in, being careful to keep between the lines. She was perched on top of a pile of old receipts and ledgers. Old like the dot matrix printers that spat out the future with every laboured grunt, as we gazed in amazement. She wore socks but no shoes.

 The kitchen had at some stage been converted to the master bedroom. The morning paper was open and the white sheet was casually strewn upon the bed.  Empty tins of sardines, the remnants of breakfast and as I looked out of the window I gazed upon a handsome woman, perhaps someone that had been loved right in this spot. Idyllic yet I thought the antichrist had been. At least, the right side up.  The wine had been drunk, good times and the light fell, just so, across the walls adorned with art.

 And then I saw the sky and I could have been anywhere. In my childhood home, colouring between the lines. In my first flat drinking five buck plonk by scented candlelight and sparking up to a backdrop of good friends and eighties house before it was retro. Waking up in a strangers bed, the smell of nightclub on the clothes entwined beside me. Reading the paper on a Sunday, with the sound of someone in the shower and the smell of sex and coffee.
And as I stared at the sky that is above all of us I almost forgot I was a voyeur in a squatters world.  There but for the Grace of...

Thank you, props and shout outs at Tom Civil; Ryan McGennisken; Doctor; Be Free;
Suki; and Bon.

Monday, April 8, 2013

OFFICIAL BLOG - Hello World Art Exhibition : Living Life with No Regrets! Ben NAZ

Hello World, if only you were closer.  Ben Naz rises to the challenge again, among other great artists, in a show in California presented by Luna George.

OFFICIAL BLOG - Hello World Art Exhibition : Living Life with No Regrets! Ben NAZ: We just received artwork for the Hello World art show from Ben NAZ  of the UK, and the energy of having this in our hands right now is...

Friday, April 5, 2013

An Ode to the Loyal Fitzroyal

I have loyal followers who spur me to keep writing and in turn I am loyal to local bloggers who inspire me to continue.  I believe in fate the way all optimists do, despite being a pessimist of Woody Allen proportion. Why am I telling you this? Because as I walk the streets of Fitzroy each day, coffee in hand, it is all I ruminate on. I am possibly leaving the place I have called home for the best part of a decade and this leaves me exposed, my ties to Fitzroy visible as strings between my heart and these cobbled alleys.

 What is it about Fitzroy and is it's essence still here?  Artygraffarti knows the writers are still here.  The other side crossed over for shits and giggles but that seems to be over.  Rore @ The Baby Farmers laments the giants are fading.  I find myself struggling for material.
What happens if I move from Fitzroy altogether?  Bill will still run ICI, Michael will still make it his office.  Francis may be there a bit longer, he still has his PhD to complete.  Amanda will still be fabulous and thank God Fitzroy didn't lose her.  Alimentari will still be consistently yum, Atomica will still have the best coffee and the shittest customer service. Actually that is not fair, since I returned from my most recent 6 month boycott the new staff are really sweet, particularly the dudes with the accents.  Nic at Marios will always be my favourite barrista.  Gertrude St will split its Capri pants sometime soon, it is bursting at the seams with 'too cool for school', but that is okay 'cos Smith St will be there to catch the fall.

The crazies, will they still be here getting a meal from the Rose or the Napes and a check in from the neighbours or will they be pushed aside by the middle class hopefuls moving in from the 'burbs and content with paper thin walls and no aircon, just to be here. The Poet, will he still promote the Rose Street Market despite the general public's best efforts to avoid him? The dudes from the flats, will they still be able to sit and share a laugh out the front of Grill'd? It seems to me they have been moved on from there recently. The disenfranchised Indigenous custodians, will they remain safe to get justifiably pissed off with us every Australia Day?
You know what?  As sad as I feel about change, I think so.  I think the essence of Fitzroy will always remain.  Fitzroy is unique. It is more than a suburb we live in, its a badge we wear. It is held together by the loyalty with which the stayers, the Fitzroyal, passionately live within it.  I can't begin to name them but I follow them on twitter, on Facebook.  And how lucky am I, they follow me back. What a place! Pull up a couch, Fitzroy is here to stay.